Rob Reid destroys the copyright industry’s absurd claims of damages with simple logic in this five minute TED talk.
As we approach the ten year anniversary of the deadliest attack on US soil while at the same time trying to solve major budget problems, I feel this quote from Bin Laden himself back in ’04 is something more people should read:
We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. … We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat. … All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations
Source: Al-Jazeera via CNN.com
But of course we should keep spending billions on unwinnable wars while we have a budget crisis and giving up more and more of our freedoms and privacy to government intrusion, because that makes sense somehow in a country that supposedly values its freedom.
Recently the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs published a report in The Lancet ranking twenty popular recreational drugs based on the harm caused to the both user and others around them. The drugs were judged individually on sixteen total harm criteria covering physical, psychological, and social harm. The categories were then weighted by importance (likelihood to cause death is worth more points than likelihood to cause family problems, harm to society is worse than harm to the individual, etc.) The results ended up ranking alcohol as the most harmful by far (72÷100), followed by a close battle between heroin and crack cocaine (55 and 54/100, respectively), then methamphetamine at the #4 spot (32÷100) and trailing off from there down to hallucinogenic mushrooms at #20 with 6/100.
These results should be unsurprising to anyone who has read any similar reports in the past. They also line up quite well with the arguments often made in favor of loosening or eliminating existing drug laws (the “alcohol is legal, why isn’t this?” argument). Unfortunately they have almost no association with the rankings used in modern drug laws almost anywhere in the world. In the majority of the world alcohol and tobacco are legal and often sold directly by or under the close watch of the government, yet in the name of “reducing harm” the majority if not all of the rest of the drugs on this list are not only illegal but also carry stiff penalties for mere possession.
Of course the logical thing to do when science indicates policy is wrong is to amend policy, right? After all, the UK has a scientific board involved with their drug policy, unlike the USA where the DEA is free to basically set policy as they see fit (fox watching the henhouse, anyone?). Nope, of course when a government is shown to be wrong by its scientists, the first thing they do is fire them, then change the law so they’re not needed, and finally go entirely in the opposite direction and not only remove the requirement that harm be demonstrated but instead assume any newly discovered recreational drugs should be restricted until they are determined to be OK by unspecified criteria.
It seems another country is following America’s lead of ignoring scientific evidence for political gain: When the scientists don’t come up with the answers you want, don’t change your ideas, just get rid of the scientists.
I don’t get it. Why is it so hard to get a government to admit that when compared to legal recreational drugs many illegal ones are less harmful, sometimes to a significant extent?
Here are my thoughts on how to structure sane drug laws:
- NEVER criminalize personal drug possession. All this does is give criminal records to those who are in most cases otherwise productive members of society and restrict those who may have real problems from getting help for fear of persecution and/or prosecution.
- Base ALL policy on science and science alone. Media and politician fueled fear rarely makes for accurate policy, so standards should be set and then followed without special treatment for any substances.
- Regulate the drugs you do allow, but only as necessary to ensure quality and safety
- Revisit all policies regularly. New studies bring new evidence to light all the time and sometimes changes will be needed.
On top of that, something I believe applies to all laws rather than just drug policy, is to have goals for the law based on testable criteria. If after a certain time the goals have not been met, maybe it’s time for another look. Is the goal still worthwhile? How close did this policy come to meeting the goal? If it came close, can it be tweaked? If it missed by a lot or made things worse, what’s a different approach?
Current policy is sold to us as reducing harm to society and cutting back on crime, when in reality it’s wasting billions in enforcement and correctional resources, ruining lives, and fueling an enormously profitable black market which funds almost all levels of crime. Science and policy are at odds and two of the most powerful countries in the world are working to keep it that way. We need to keep pressure on our politicians to resolve this.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
We’ve all heard that saying. It appears in many works of fiction and is often used as a sound bite by judges and prosecutors in real life. I hadn’t put much thought in to it until this morning when I read it in an article about people who have been arrested and charged with crimes under wiretapping laws for recording public officials, often police officers, in public.
If a law significantly deviates from what would generally be expected by a lay person such that said person could easily inadvertently violate it in going about their day, as far as I’m concerned ignorance is a completely valid excuse. It’s absurd to expect someone outside of law-related fields to even have a rough idea of what laws they may run afoul of accidentally, nor should someone be expected to call their lawyer to see if it’s OK before doing something in public.
A great example of this situation handled right is the state of Virginia and their law against radar detectors. It deviates from the national norm, so right after the state line and every so often along the highways you will see signs spelling out in bright reflective letters that radar detectors are illegal in that state. It’s a stupid law that should never have existed, but they have at least gone through the trouble to explicitly defeat the ignorance argument.
If you want more, Dumb Laws has a whole collection. Some of these are so absurd it makes one wonder what situation inspired the law in the first place, but some of the others if you had the right combination of officer and prosecutor you could actually be charged with a crime for violating a law that 99.999% of the world would be rightfully ignorant of. Further, as put quite well by Illinois State Representative Chapin Rose, “when you have a law that prohibits something your average Joe thinks is perfectly legal, it undermines respect for the rule of law.”
Ignorance of the law, depending on the situation, should be a completely valid excuse. Beyond that, when legitimate ignorance of a law is even brought in to the discussion it likely means the law itself should be reviewed for change or removal, as it probably is not in favor of the people.
With the TSA’s favorite new toys the body imagers becoming a big issue right now (rightfully), I think it’s time to unleash this little rant I’ve been refining for years (as they get dumber).
First, a note on suicide attacks.
Since a four-pack of suicide attacks via airliners were the event that kick-started this circus of stupid, it’s not surprising that they’ve been where a lot of people focus.
The only way to try this which can be stopped is like the 9/11 attackers did, where they forced their way in to the cockpit and took control of the aircraft. There are two reasons this can’t happen again. One is the reinforcement and regular locking of cockpit doors. The other is the awareness of passengers. If such an attack was ever tried again, even if they gained control of the plane it would be Flight 93 in seconds.
Bomb-based attacks can not be stopped ever. If someone is going to blow themselves up anyways, they now have a full set of cavities within which can be stuffed with large amounts of an explosive of their choice. Unless we’re going to start cavity searching everyone who wants to fly (to any TSA employees reading this, that’s sarcasm not a suggestion), it can not be prevented. Even if one could detect the human bomb at a checkpoint, they could just detonate right there and still have their desired effect.
Now that we’re past suicide attackers, we’re left with two tasks:
1. Keep unattended bags from getting on the plane.
2. Keep people from carrying dangerous weapons on board which could be used in a traditional hijacking.
The first is obvious, ensure any bombing would have to be a suicide bombing (which we already covered) by making sure that any bags on board belong to a passenger also on board.
The second weighs heavily on proper application of the word dangerous. This does not mean anything which could potentially be used as a weapon. This means anything that actually makes any sense to use as a weapon. We haven’t seen any evidence for movie ninja grade weapons training among the types that have tried to hijack a plane, so while I’m sure Chuck Norris could kill 10 men with the scraper on a set of nail clippers that still doesn’t mean it makes any sense to take them away from passengers. If it requires careful use to be of any concern, again the Flight 93 principle applies. There are more passengers than there would be attackers in any air travel situation, so as long as we can keep the guns and big blades off the planes any would-be attacker would easily be overwhelmed even by a small number of untrained individuals, much less if there was a trained air marshal or any current or former law enforcement or military on board.
Both of those duties can easily be filled without any of the invasive “security” the TSA wants us to believe we need, and were being filled quite nicely by their predecessors. We hadn’t thought of the suicide-plane attack, so they got us by surprise, but it was a one-shot trick. Everything else either can be stopped with traditional security or can’t be stopped at all.
As a final note, please everyone remember that more people died this year in car accidents in America alone than have died in all terrorist acts in recorded history. Use some perspective. In terms of threats that matter to an average American, terrorism is near the bottom. Stop worrying about it. And if you’re a would-be terrorist, please steal a TSA uniform and shove some C4 up your ass. If we’re going to keep reacting in fear from whatever the last attempt was, let’s at least get some TSA agents being cavity searched for the good of the people.
Rather than going over the same topics time and time again, I figure I’ll lay down a few posts explaining my position on hot-button issues and why I take the position I do. These posts are intended to provoke discussion and as such I will attempt to limit my usual unfiltered outbursts of profanity and ad hominem attacks on the vocal members of “the other side” to cases where the stupid is so extreme that it’s overwhelming.
Up first is the topic of health care reform. I’ve been meaning to write a post on this for months but work and real life get in the way.
The article linked off the Slashdot post was written by a man named Jim Lynch, a long time writer in technology media both digital and print. Mr. Lynch is apparently annoyed by a new feature in Apple’s just-released Safari 5 web browser called Reader. Reader is a feature that, when selected by the user, attempts to detect “article” content on a web page and display it in a simple format which is larger and often easier to read than the normal web site layout. It also attempts to detect multi-page articles and automatically display further pages as you scroll down, effectively creating a “print” view for sites which may lack such things.
What bothers Mr. Lynch basically comes down to advertising. When using Reader, if it works properly all ads are stripped out of the content. More importantly for some, the automatic loading of the next page means cost-per-impression ads get many less views as they would only show on the first page before the user clicked the Reader button.
I understand the key point behind his complaint, web sites cost money to run and that has to come from somewhere. This site costs me about $275 a year between domain registration and server space, and it’s fairly low volume (understatement of the century, I average less than 40 pageviews a day not counting spiders). I pay this out of pocket, since for my use the domain is for my email and the VPS is just a place for me to experiment. As far as I’m concerned I’d be paying for them both anyways, so why not put something there? Obviously that reasoning doesn’t tend to apply outside the range of personal blogs and the costs are much higher when you start talking real traffic levels requiring real servers rather than a virtual slice of one.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but not feel the slightest bit of sorrow for advertisers and those running advertising when they complain about their ads being blocked. They’ve for the most part brought this on themselves, by designing their ads to be as intrusive and annoying as possible. Web publishers have been just as badly a part of the problem, injecting ads as if they were content, allowing nuisance ads with autoplay audio/video or various popup/under/over windows, and in some particularly annoying cases using the content as the ad with IntelliTXT and the like.
We’ve already seen what the ability to skip ads has done to the television industry. For years they thrived on annoyingly loud and repetitive ads which seemed to rely on the “any publicity is good publicity” theory. As soon as the DVR became common the ad market pretty much fell apart on anything people weren’t watching live. Now that extensions like Adblock for Firefox and Apple’s new Reader are making it easy for the average user to dodge ads (rather than us geeks who have been doing it for years) the internet ad community fears the same thing happening.
All I have to say is that the internet ad industry needs to learn from the successful television ad campaigns.
First and foremost, DO NOT PISS OFF YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMER!!!!!!!!!
If an overly loud and annoying ad comes on the radio or TV, I’ll turn the volume down or change the channel if I don’t really care for what’s on while making a mental note to avoid the advertiser if possible. The same applies to internet ads. If your ad stretches over the content I’m trying to read, starts playing audio out of nowhere, makes half the words on the page pop up product links, or otherwise interferes with my reading of the content I will go out of my way to avoid your product where possible. If ad blocking is available, I’ll turn it on immediately when any of those happen and may make a note to avoid the site where it was seen as well.
Second, draw my eye the right way. You do not have to be loud, either literally with audio or figuratively with bright/flashing colors. Use your space to make me interested in what you have, then if I actively click on it you can load your content of choice. This is more for advertiser rather than publishers, but due to point one publishers would do well to enforce point two.
Third, be relevant. If I’m reading a site about cars, an ad for purse built to carry small dogs is most likely irrelevant. Again this is for both publishers and advertisers. Ad networks which do not target based on content are outdated and should be dropped immediately from both sides.
Fourth, don’t try to shove too many ads in my face. I myself start getting annoyed when there’s more than 3 – 5 ads on the screen at one time, depending on the amount of content and such. Sites that split articles in to a huge number of short pages in order to increase impressions for ad purposes fall in to the same category (and I believe these sites are the greatest reason for the Reader feature). Dividing articles in to multiple pages is fine, but don’t do it unless you have at least as much information on a page as an average magazine. Two paragraphs and a few pictures are not a page.
The short version is provide ads that don’t annoy the reader and preferably are something they might actually want and you won’t have as many blocking them. If the relevance goes up, more people will click on them too. As for the rest, those who have already decided to install full ad blockers, those are gone already. You won’t get them back, it’s just too nice. Download Firefox, install Adblock Plus, and subscribe to one of the popular filter lists like Easylist. Now turn it off and browse to a few popular news sites. Turn it back on and reload those pages. If you don’t agree that this is a much cleaner and more enjoyable way to browse the internet you’re blind.
To whom it may concern:
Over the past two days there has been a lot of talk about your new data plans, particularly the removal of the “unlimited” option. While I believe there should be a third tier for the heavier users, I can understand the reasons for moving to an entirely metered structure and do not have any problems with that part. Where I do have a problem is the additional $20 per month charge for users of internet tethering.
Before I make my points, let me quote one of your Senior Vice Presidents, Mark Collins, from his interview with GigaOm on the day the new plans were announced.
That capability is enabling something you can’t do today. You can use one device and get multiple connections so it’s more useful to you. You’re going to use more data so the price is based on the value that will be delivered.
This is in response to the question “What about the $20 tethering fee? It looks like a convenience charge.”
That capability is only enabling something you can’t do today because you locked it out in the first place. My AT&T-branded LG CU500 could not tether until I had a tethering plan, but my unlocked and unbranded Sony K850i could just fine without any special tethering plans. The Apple iPhone 3G and 3GS both have supported tethering officially since the release of the 3.0 firmware released nearly a year ago, but this was disabled on models sold in the US because you did not want to allow it. Tethering is not some special feature you are doing work to enable and deserve to be paid extra for, it’s a feature all of our data-capable phones have built in which you have actively engaged in defeating.
I won’t argue the statement that it makes my phone and data plan more useful, but again this is a feature that both have inherently had from the beginning and you have actively sought to remove. If I went to rent a four door sedan and found that the passenger side and rear seats had been removed unless I paid an extra fee to have them reinstalled, I and any other reasonable person would think that is outrageous. Unfortunately you are able to take advantage of the fact that 99% of your users are not technology-savvy and thus do not know how much they’re being screwed.
The last part of that response is the most illogical of them all. “You’re going to use more data,” so the price increases without the amount of data I’m allowed to use changing in the slightest? How is me using 2GB in one month on a smartphone different from using 2GB in one month tethering to even a dozen laptops? Data is data, one type doesn’t put any extra load on your network versus another.
Extra charges for tethering were acceptable when the alternative options were smartphone/dumbphone-only unlimited packages, since yes, a tethering user is likely to use more data overall. However, if I’m already buying a bucket of bits how does it matter at all if I choose to use those to feed my smartphone directly or download something to my laptop?
To close, I have been a customer of AT&T since porting in from T-Mobile’s then terrible coverage in 2005. In that time I have at peak carried two voice lines, one iPhone data, and one LaptopConnect at the same time. I know that does not make me anything special, but I’m sure it’s more than most of your single non-business or family customers. I have also defended AT&T as having the best network for geeks due to your use of open GSM technology and until recently highest mobile data speeds. As you might guess, I will not be doing this any longer and I will be emphasizing the problems I have with your change to anyone who may ask about your service. I had been eyeing the Sprint/HTC Evo 4G for a time while debating making the switch, I thank you for helping me make my decision. You can expect to see my number port out in the near future.
Sent via e-mail to Randall Stephenson, CEO and Mark Collins, VP of Voice and Data
Just some of my favorites from the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day group on Facebook.
If the Quran tells Muslims not to depict their prophet, that’s fine and I have no problem with them living by that. When they try to enforce their beliefs on others is where the line is crossed.